Songs of Departure

Vietnamese Traditional Music in Dallas and Fort Worth


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Details: Audio Cassette, 1991, Produced and Recorded by Alan Govenar
Track Listing: Mo Ngay Va Phuc Quoc, Tay Thi, Tieng Trong, Me Lihn, Suite: Kim Tien, Ngu Diem, and Bai Ta, Ngua o Bac, Cao Phi, Nhan Nguoi Ra Di, Co Ban, Vong Co, Ngay Ky Corn Cua Cha Me, Kong Minh Toa Lau

Inspired by the events in Vietnam of 1975 and by the remembrance of their past, these amateur musicians and singers in Dallas, bearing a great love of the traditional art, express their spontaneous emotions toward life in contributing another type of musical feeling to Texas. This recording constitutes the best-preserved music of southern Vietnam called nhac tai tu (a kind of amateur music played as a pastime), better-known as music of the "cai luong theater" found in various Vietnamese communities of the United States. Musical instruments heard in this recording include the luc huyen cam (a six-stringed instrument), the don kim (a moon-shaped, long-necked lute), the don xen (an octagonal lute), the don gao (a two-stringed coconut shell fiddle), and the song lang (a foot clapper). The most curious of the instruments, the luc huyen cam, is made from an electric rock guitar whose neck is scooped out between frets. Major characteristics of this Vietnamese music in general include ornamental displays: gliding, pushing, bending, vibrato, and staccato. In a similar way, singing has a close relationship with the Vietnamese tonal language. Every performance engages the concept of dieu or "mode" involving a system of pitch, melodic patterns, specific ornaments, and a modal sentiment. The recordings on this audiocassette tape were produced by Alan Govenar and, funded by Documentary Arts, Inc.


Selected as an Outstanding Folk Recording - American Folklife Center, The Library of Congress